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How to Safely & Effectively Restore Your Core

How to Safely & Effectively Restore Your Core

by Jennifer Rendfrey, MS Exercise Science & Jared Coughlin NASM CPT, PES, CES

As a fitness professional, I often get asked about exercises to reduce inches around people’s waists, reduce body fat and lose weight. When it comes to core exercises there are many benefits which include weight loss and reduction of body fat around the waistline. But there are many benefits to correctly working your core that are not seen but are even more important.

When defining the core, we need to simply look at the main objective/job of your core muscles. Your core’s main job is to stabilize and protect the spinal cord. Most back injuries are due to a weakened core and/or unwanted movements that could be avoided with a stronger, more stable core. So, the obvious question is how do we do that?

Build a Strong Core
To build a stronger, more stable core we need to start at the beginning and build a core that can withstand and control movements. To do so, the Plank is the best exercise to begin this journey. While the basic plank is a great starting point, there are many varieties and progressions of the plank which we will investigate in this article.

Let’s start by looking at the basic plank and we’ll then begin to add elements to increase the difficulty and progressions of this exercise. The plank is an “anti-gravity” exercise where you simply hold your body off the ground without moving. To start, you’ll want to try for 10-15 seconds of a hold and slowly begin to increase the time as your body adapts to the stresses of the exercise.

Begin by grabbing a yoga mat, towel or find a soft surface like a carpeted area in your house.

Basic Plank:

Lie face-down on the floor and bring your elbows underneath you so your forearms are firmly planted on the floor. Then by pushing up on your forearms lift your body off of the ground so the only parts of your body touching the floor are your forearms and toes. Try to keep your body as flat as possible by “bracing” your core area and squeezing your glutes.

Basic Plank Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Push-Up Plank:

Begin this version of the plank by assuming the position of the traditional push-up. Instead of lowering your body to the floor, stay in the “up” position of the push-up and hold.

Side Plank

 

 

 

 

 

 

Side Plank:
Lie down on your side, resting on your elbow/forearm and place your feet on top of one another. Press down on your forearm and lift your hips off of the floor and hold. The “top” arm can either rest on your top hip or extend it to the ceiling for an additional challenge.

Plank Stability

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stability Ball Plank:
Using a stability ball, place your forearms on the ball and walk your feet backwards until you’re in the basic plank position. This version of a basic plank will challenge your stability because the ball will slightly rock and move forcing you to not only hold the position of the plank but also stabilize the ball as well.

Stability Ball Plank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bosu Ball Plank:
Grab a Bosu ball and flip it upside down so the flat side is up and the rounded side is down. Assume the position of the traditional push-up and hold. Since the bottom of the Bosu ball is rounded and soft you’ll be forced to stabilize the position challenging your triceps, chest and shoulder complexes in addition to your core.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compound Movement Planks:
A “compound” movement is a secondary movement added to the basic movement or hold you’re doing.

“Shoulder Tap Plank” While holding the push-up position plank alternate reaching up and touching the opposite shoulder with the opposite hand. This will force you to stabilize and minimize any rocking back and forth with your torso forcing the core to engage and work overtime.

“Basic Plank to Push-Up Plank” Start in the basic plank position on your forearms, transition into the push-up position from your forearms to your hands without breaking your plank position. Then lower yourself back down to your forearms and repeat.

In conclusion, the plank is a fantastic exercise that can be done by beginners to advanced exercisers. The benefits of the plank and other core exercises will build a stronger, more stable and tighter core complex. This will lead to safer and more effective exercise programs and higher fitness levels.

Try this Plank Challenge

30 Day Plank Challenge Basic Push-up Side Plank (Each Side) Stir The Pot
Day 1 20 Sec 20 Sec 5 Dips 20 Sec
Day 2 20 Sec 20 Sec 5 Dips 20 Sec
Day 3 20 Sec 20 Sec 5 Dips 20 Sec
Day 4 20 Sec 20 Sec 5 Dips 20 Sec
Day 5 MAX MAX MAX MAX
Log MAX Time:
Day 6 Rest Rest Rest Rest
Day 7 30 Sec 30 Sec 7 Dips 30 Sec
Day 8 30 Sec 30 Sec 7 Dips 30 Sec
Day 9 30 Sec 30 Sec 7 Dips 30 Sec
Day 10 30 Sec 30 Sec 7 Dips 30 Sec
Day 11 MAX MAX MAX MAX
Log MAX Time:
Day 12 Rest Rest Rest Rest
Day 13 40 Sec 40 Sec 10 Dips 40 Sec
Day 14 40 Sec 40 Sec 10 Dips 40 Sec
Day 15 40 Sec 40 Sec 10 Dips 40 Sec
Day 16 40 Sec 40 Sec 10 Dips 40 Sec
Day 17 MAX MAX MAX MAX
Log MAX Time:
Day 18 Rest Rest Rest Rest
Day 19 50 Sec 50 Sec 12 Dips 50 Sec
Day 20 50 Sec 50 Sec 12 Dips 50 Sec
Day 21 50 Sec 50 Sec 12 Dips 50 Sec
Day 22 50 Sec 50 Sec 12 Dips 50 Sec
Day 23 MAX MAX MAX MAX
Log MAX Time:
Day 24 Rest Rest Rest Rest
Day 25 60 Sec 60 Sec 15 Dips 60 Sec
Day 26 60 Sec 60 Sec 15 Dips 60 Sec
Day 27 60 Sec 60 Sec 15 Dips 60 Sec
Day 28 60 Sec 60 Sec 15 Dips 60 Sec
Day 29 Rest Rest Rest Rest
Day 30 MAX MAX MAX MAX
Log MAX Time: